When the school refused to stop two girls from tormenting a woman’s daughter, the mom decided she would put an end to it. She took matters into her own hands, but did she go too far when she landed herself behind bars?
Simmone James, a Central Florida mother, was reaching her wit’s end with two girls at her daughter’s school. For three months, the students tormented James’ child so badly the mother was forced to walk her frightened 10-year-old to school at Cambridge Elementary in Cocoa.
“They beat her up,” Larry Barkley, James’ husband, said, talking about two sisters who harassed his daughter relentlessly. “They have been tormenting her. They come over to the house and when they come to the house, they’re throwing rocks at the windows,” he added, saying the girls even chased his daughter down the street.
“My daughter’s scared to death. My wife got to walk her to school, and I don’t think it’s fair,” he furthered. Their daughter became so upset that she didn’t want to eat. Her parents spoke with the school and law enforcement but they said nothing changed, and they were growing tired of the ongoing assaults on their daughter.
According to Assistant Superintendent of Brevard County Schools Matt Reed, the parents had made a report to “school administration, which by law and policy, was doing an investigation.” But, he quickly added, “That’s an extensive process.”
As James waited for someone to do something to protect her daughter, the 46-year-old mom spotted her child’s attackers in front of the school while walking the girl there on a Monday morning. She decided to confront them and the angry mother approached the pair.
Witnesses said they saw James pointing at a child’s face before launching an attack. She then threw a powdered mixture in the 8- and 11-year-old girls’ faces and the two children immediately ran screaming to the school office, where they told administrators James had told them, “Leave my daughter alone,” and threw something in their eyes.
They were treated by the school nurse for burning noses and inflamed, tearing eyes before being taken to an area hospital as a precaution. The irritating substance was a combination of cayenne pepper and salt, according to the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office.
“The girls had a reaction to it. Their eyes started tearing up, burning sensation,” Yvonne Martinez with the Cocoa Police Department explained. Although Martinez understands James’ frustration, she said the mom crossed the line and she couldn’t condone what she had done.
“Any mom is going to defend her child, but this is not the way to do it,” Martinez said. She admitted that law enforcement was told the girls had tormented James’ daughter, but, according to Martinez, that didn’t justify the mother’s actions. “You don’t resort to violence to deal with it,” she said.
Simmone James left the campus before school officials could find her, but she was eventually arrested and charged with two counts each of child abuse and battery and one count of disrupting a school function. The latter was later dismissed, but James still faced the abuse charge, which is a felony.
Simmone James was held at the Brevard County Jail Complex on an $11,500 bond and ordered to stay away from the students and Cambridge Elementary if she bonded out. But, Larry Barkley supported his wife’s actions. “I stand by what my wife did for one reason,” he said. “You do not attack no one’s child, and beat them up, and have them afraid to walk the street or ride a bike.”
It seems, in his eyes, James was just giving the girls a taste of their own medicine. And, apparently, others agree with the mad mom’s methods, since, shortly after the incident, the local sheriff’s office had to investigate a possible cayenne pepper copycat threat.
Their report said someone else, inspired by James, threatened to throw a blend of powdery spices at a 9-year-old who was waiting for the bus in Merritt Island. That child’s mother called 911.
“Two or three of these parents out here talking about they’re going to do the same (expletive) the lady did to the girls in Cocoa, throwing salt in my baby’s face,” the upset woman told the operator.
Brevard Public Schools said the district was looking into the possibility of sending James’ daughter to another school. “This was something that started in the neighborhood and only recently had come up at school. Clearly, things got out of control,” Assistant Superintendent Reed said. The district added that the school would make students sign anti-bullying pledge cards.
Simmone James’ actions were extreme, but so was the alleged abuse her child was forced to endure. Because of this, some don’t fault the mother for what she did, saying she defended her child when the appropriate channels failed. Even if those who don’t agree with her methods believe the cayenne pepper probably sent a stronger message than the school’s pledge cards ever could and the only longterm effect was a tough lesson learned.